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Freistadt Danzig

A Brief History

Early 20th Century map showing the location of Danzig

The Freistadt Danzig (Free City of Danzig) or Wolne Miasto Gdańsk in Polish, was founded in 997 by Duke Mieszko I of Poland. Officially chartered as a city in 1224, Dantzike, as it was known then, became one of the more important trading and fishing ports on the Baltic Sea.

Over the ensuing centuries, it became a Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights and then again part of the Kingdom of Poland. Following the partition of Poland by the Russian, Austrian, and Prussian Empires in the late 18th Century, Danzig was incorporated into the Prussian Imperial Province of West Prussia in 1793.

Free City of Gdansk
-- By: Mariusz Paździora

The Freistadt Danzig or Free City of Danzig was created by the League of Nations on January 10, 1920, under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. No plebiscite was held.

The Free City (State) of Danzig included the major cities of Danzig (Gdańsk), Zoppot (Sopot), Oliva (Oliwa), Tiegenhof (Nowy Dwór Gdański), Neuteich (Nowy Staw) and some 252 villages and 63 hamlets, covering a total area of 754 square miles.  As the League of Nations decreed, the region was to remain separated from the nation of Germany and from the new nation of Poland. The Free City of Danzig was under League of Nations protection, and it was put into a binding customs union with Poland. The Free City was created in order to give Poland sufficient access to the sea, while at the same time, recognizing that its population was overwhelmingly ethnic German.

From a 1920's Postcard

As in Germany, the hyperinflation of the 1920's and the Great Depression had a terrible effect on the economy and the citizens of the Free City of Danzig. In 1933, the city's government was taken over by the local Nazi Party, the democratic opposition was suppressed, and widespread anti-Semitic and anti-Polish discrimination followed.

Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Free City was abolished, and it was then incorporated into the Third Reich.

From a 1920's Postcard

The city of Danzig was conquered by the Red Army in March 1945. Around 90% of the city was reduced to ruins, by the end of World War II, and it is estimated that more than 90% of the population of the city were either dead or had fled by that time.

At the Potsdam Conference, the Allies decided that the former Free City would become part of Poland, and after World War II, it became the Polish port city of Gdańsk.

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Freistadt Danzig - A Brief History